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Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein

Chapters XXVII–XXIX

Chapters XXIV–XXVI

Chapters XXX–XXXI

Summary

Chapter XXVII

Patty gives Jill and Mike advice on their magic act. Patty senses that Jill and Mike are "seekers," and she hopes to expose them to her Fosterite beliefs. Patty takes off some clothes and shows Jill and Mike her tattoos, many of which portray the life story of Foster. Her bra covers some tattoos. Jill can sense that Patty wants to share these, so Jill encourages Patty to remove the bra. But before Patty can, Mike makes her underwear disappear. He makes his own robe and Jill's negligee disappear as well. Patty believes the disappearances to be a miracle, and she believes that Mike is a holy man.

Mike and Jill explain that Mike is the Man from Mars. Patty still believes that Mike is the Archangel Michael descended to Earth. Jill has now learned enough of the Martian ways that she and Mike can communicate telepathically; they discuss whether to make Patty a water-brother, and they decide that they should. After water-sharing, Mike makes love to Patty, and then Jill. Patty then tells Jill and Mike about Foster's prophecies and philosophies.

The narration gives a brief history of Foster's church and Foster's own liberal sexual practices. Patty shows Jill and Mike a very special tattoo she has, of a kiss that Foster himself put over her heart. The next morning, Mike gives Patty a kiss on the opposite side of her body that he wills to leave a permanent tattoo-like mark. Patty is thrilled.

Chapter XXVIII

In Heaven, Foster and Digby watch over the scene of Mike, Jill, and Patty together on a television-like device called an "omniscio." Digby is offended by Patty's assertion that Mike is an archangel. Foster tells Digby that she may well be correct. Foster takes Digby to task for his continued resentment of Mike, and suggests that Digby take an assignment watching over another planet, where he will get solid angelic experience and not be distracted by Mike.

Chapter XXIX

Mike tells Jill that he still does not grok the Earth concept of "love." Mike asks Jill if she would like to get married; she tells him that she does not want a relationship with him that would exclude their other friends. They move on to Las Vegas, where Mike learns to grok why people gamble and Jill works as a showgirl. Jill finds she enjoys being looked at by men; they evince a kind of primal desire of which Mike is incapable. She finds herself understanding Duke's affinity for pornography.

Jill considers sending a raunchy picture of herself to Duke. She tells Mike this idea, which leads to a discussion of whether Jill would go to bed with Duke. Though she has been faithful to Mike, they decide that making love to another water-brother would be a "goodness." Mike is curious about what constitutes a pornographic pose, so Jill demonstrates a series of such poses.

Mike comes to see Jill's show. Jill telepathically lets Mike know which customer is eyeing her most lustily. Mike peers inside this man's mind and vicariously experiences his longing. Mike mentally shows Jill what she looks like through the man's eyes, and she is stunned by the power of the experience. After the show, Mike groks human desire, and he and Jill take to seeing all of the naughty revues in town.

They move on to California, and Mike becomes obsessed by religion. He has been disappointed with Earthlings' science and philosophy, and he believes that religion must contain answers, but cannot find anything satisfactory. Mike worries that he is making no progress, and that rather than becoming more human, he is making Jill more Martian.

They go to the zoo. There, Jill throws a peanut to a monkey. A larger monkey steals the peanut and beats up the first monkey who, in turn, after sulking for a moment, finds an even smaller monkey to beat up. Perceiving the grotesque sadness of this, Mike laughs for the first time, hysterically. At last, he feels like he groks people: they laugh to soothe their pain. Understanding people, he feels ready to help them, and asks Jill what he has to do to be ordained as a clergyman.

Analysis

Having made his transition to adulthood in the last set of chapters, Mike now ends the part entitled "His Eccentric Education" by fully embracing Earth culture and his mission to be a religious savior. Though many people have been anxious to see him as a Jesus-like figure since his arrival on Earth, he previously has been unable to understand what these people might actually want from him. Now, grokking humanity—grokking its foibles, like gambling and pornography, and grokking the existential pain that causes laughter—Mike feels confident that he can be what many have wanted him to be: a healer of souls. When Patty compares him to Foster, whom she believes was a holy prophet, Mike is not shy about accepting the comparison. He uses his telekinetic powers to give her a tattoo of his kiss to precisely match Foster's. This is Mike's bold way of telling Patty that he is indeed a holy man.

The direct comparison in these chapters between Mike and Foster, rather than a more traditional figure like Jesus, does not necessarily seem flattering, given the portrayal of Foster, but Mike is not concerned with seeming dignified. Foster is portrayed as no more than a savvy cult-leader, aside from his ascension to Heaven, there is no indication in the text that Foster was a genuine "holy man." Foster's place in Heaven, alongside Digby, a known con man and murderer, seems to have been secured by the faith that he earned from people on Earth, rather than based on a life of exceptional purity. Heinlein makes the point that, though Mike does have genuine powers like Jesus, his claim to leadership is more based in his personal charisma, like Foster. Regardless of Foster's own moral ambiguity, or the hypocrisy of the Fosterites, Mike nonetheless can learn from Foster the art of attracting and nurturing a group of followers. Though Mike's "father" Jubal has no patience for the Fosterites, Mike recognizes them as fellow seekers of answers to eternal questions, and thus allies himself with certain of them, like Patty.

Mike has been a cipher throughout must of the novel, always crucial to the action but rarely the focus of the narration. However, in his oratory in Chapter XXIX, concurrent with his discovery of sense of purpose, he becomes a forceful and clear character in the novel. From the beginning of the book, the omniscient narrator has tended to explain the events of the story as filtered through the mindsets of Jubal, Jill, Ben, and others—we have rarely spent much time with Mike's point of view, and he has been entirely absent or in trance-state for many chapters of the action. But in his exposition to Jill regarding his search for answers in science, philosophy, and religion, we see Mike speaking for the first time in completely articulate English, explaining his concerns and his goals. His speech culminates in a mission statement about his plans to help humanity do nothing less than banish "pain and sickness and hunger and fighting." This bold and simple declaration is, in fact, the clearest and most direct language we will hear from Mike until the final chapters of the novel; he will mostly remain on the periphery of the narration's focus, as he has been until this point.

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Apollo =/= Mars

by Brags753, July 10, 2013

The summary incorrectly states that Apollo is the Greek "word" for Mars. Actually, Ares is the Greek name for the god known as Mars in Latin.

Apollo is one of the few classical gods known by nearly the same name in Greek and Latin. In English, he is called Apollo in both contexts.

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